By Kate Piluso
Every time I share some of my writing with anyone, I have this heart stopping moment of panic.
My palms get sweaty, and I get all nervous because I feel like I’m giving away a part of myself that I’ve only ever shared with Microsoft Word and my laptop.
The moment after those words on the page leave my control I think to myself, “I am a creative writing major. This is what I want to do with my life. But, alas, I am fooling no one for I am actually a literary potato.”
Call it performance anxiety or whatever else you might deem appropriate, but that feeling of not knowing if the one skill you have that you’re actually proud of is a skill that you should be proud of is terrifying.
I know myself to be a writer, damn it, so why do I get so afraid when it’s time to share my work with the world?
It’s similar to what I’m sure everyone has faced at any sort of family gathering or the inevitable introduction to new, full grown adults. It’s the “What are you doing with your life?” series of questions that come up when you talk to someone about college and your major and the apparent fundamentals of your very existence.
Every new person that you meet wants you to pave out the exact path that you intend to follow for the rest of your life, in spite of the fact that you may or may not have any clue what you want to do with yourself the day after tomorrow, or after you graduate or at any point in the foreseeable future.
Each time I talk to someone about college and being an English major, there’s a guarantee that they will condescendingly ask, “So do you want to write for a living, or…?” with the ellipses as a completely palpable disdain for the notion that I might pursue a career in the arts over something ”practical” or “more appropriate in our current economy.”
In my head, I like to give a cheeky grin and say, “Oh, I plan to be a ghostwriter. But, like a literal ghost who happens to write! Spooky, no?”
Out loud, I say with a forced smile that I hope reads like I’m a polite, young woman who doesn’t loathe people for judging her passions so harshly: “I would love to teach middle school and be able to write in my free time.”
The thing is, the very second I say that, I know that I am pandering to whoever I’m talking to rather than being proud of what I love and what I think I’m good at. Maybe that’s where all of this insecurity comes from—choosing the easier route of explanation rather than owning up to the uncertainty of my future.
When things get super overwhelming or I fear that I might actually hold less value than a potato (literary or otherwise), I like to remind myself that what lies ahead is a vague mass of ‘who the fuck knows?’ and excitement wrapped up in so many opportunities. When I look forward to what comes next, I can’t really see anything distinct.
Sure, I’ll make it through this semester and graduate in May, but after that? I can’t tell you anything for certain and that, to me, is where the anxiously wonderful part of living begins.